Students Saved Nearly $9 Million with Free Online Textbooks

ANN ARBOUR, Mich. – Washtenaw Community College (WCC) students have saved nearly $9 million with free online textbooks.

The Ann Arbor-based college launched its zero-cost textbook program, called Open Education Resources, in 2017.

Since then, 47 courses have offered the free textbook program, saving students hundreds of dollars.

During the decade 2006-2016, textbook prices rose nearly 90%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of a semester of textbooks, between $300 and $500 for some students, may cost more than the cost of WCC credit hours in the district, the school said.

“It’s no small feat to develop a quality free online textbook to cover all content standards for a classroom,” WCC professional librarian Molly Ledermann said in a statement. “Faculty members work in cohorts with librarians, developing original content, browsing open resources, mixing and matching graphics and other types of information, and navigating through issues of attributions and rights author.”

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Ledermann leads the college’s Bailey Library REL faculty cohorts for two years.

“We are committed to providing an excellent education to all students, regardless of socio-economic background. Our growing OER efforts are a huge contributor to affordability, and students can be assured that the quality and content of the material is exceptional,” said COE President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

The WCC’s free textbook program is one of three programs featured by the Michigan OER Network, officials said.

Officials noted that students in 752 science and math classes from fall 2019 through winter 2022 saved $2.97 million. But it’s not just students who are affected, WCC educators can provide students with materials for the entire semester.

“One of the amazing things about WCC is that our teachers are passionate about their students and want to save them money. They see the choices students have to make between buying a pair of glasses, fixing a car, or buying a textbook,” Ledermann said in a statement.

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Currently, Washtenaw Community College has four no-cost text commerce certificates and plans to offer textbook “Z Degrees” associate degrees at no cost soon, officials said.

Two additional certificates are expected to launch in the fall.

Learn more about the Open Educational Resources Program here.

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Christy J. Olson